Prepping for Holiday Air Travel

December 3, 2012


As much as possible, I try to avoid airports at busy holiday times — and this Christmas will be no exception. But when I decide to brave the friendly skies (which never seem all that friendly to me, unless I’ve downed enough vodka), there are certain things that make the experience a little less stressful. I thought I’d share some of them here, in case you’re gearing up for air travel in a few weeks:

Send gifts by mail ahead of time.

Box up the gifts you plan to bring and send them ahead of time. Granted, this is a little harder if you’re traveling internationally, but it’s a great idea if you’re going domestic. If your gifts aren’t overly bulky or heavy, FedEx or UPS can be a better option than the post office, though Priority Mail can get it there pretty quickly, even at holiday time.

Pack everything in a carry-on bag.

If you’ll be gone for less than a week, force yourself to pack everything in one carry-on (not including a purse/all-purpose bag). Not only will you avoid the hassle of waiting endlessly for your luggage, you’ll avoid having it end up in Cairo (unless you’re actually going to Cairo…). When the plane lands, off you’ll go, feeling sorry for the poor suckers who need to wait another hour for their bags.

It used to be impossible for me to pack light; I’d anticipate all the different items I might need and end up packing way too much. Eventually, though, I learned that it’s always better to borrow, buy, or make do when you’re away from home. Even if you’re traveling with kids, try to pack just one carry-on for each family member; you can always buy extra diapers when you get there.

Choose your travel outfit wisely.

I’m the kind of girl who refuses to wear high heels on a plane, in case I need to make a mad dash for the exit — plus I want to be really comfortable, since I’ll be sitting in a confined space for so long. But I also hate to look like a slob. I’ve learned to choose my footwear wisely, wear layers, and don pants that have a bit of a stretch. (I did wear my Lululemon yoga pants to Ethiopia, but they’re relatively attractive — and hey, it was a 15-hour flight, people.) A large scarf or shawl that can double as a pillow or blanket is a must-have for me. I also make sure the pieces in my travel outfit can be worn with other things I’ve packed. (By the way, you might enjoy this Holiday Inflight Style Guide, posted right before Thanksgiving by Janet Sahm. I’m digging those pants with some boots.)

Guard yourself against nasty viruses.

Who wants to be sick on holiday? We all know that enclosed public spaces like planes and trains are ideal breeding grounds for nasties. A few days before traveling, I start taking high-dose Vitamin C and bring some Emergen-C packets or Airborne with me. I also make sure my Vitamin D levels are boosted throughout the winter. (You can have yourself tested next time you get blood work.) Much to my husband’s chagrin, l also bought this for our trip to Ethiopia. (And before you point out that it clearly didn’t work on the way home, I will tell you that my girls already had terrible colds when we got on the plane, so I blame my six-week virus on them.)

Don’t forget your must-have items for the ride.

I tend to be a bag lady. Always be prepared is my motto — and I wasn’t even in the Girl Scouts. Making three international trips this year helped me pare down when traveling to a few necessities: Water! (Fiji is my favorite when traveling.) Something to read. (I tend to bring a magazine or two; sometimes a book.) A little book of Sudoku puzzles. (Helps gets my mind off the fact that I am 30,000 feet in the air.) Tinted lip balm. (Burt’s Bees works great.) Hydration mist. (This is my favorite!) An eye mask (for longer flights). Hand sanitizer (while trying not to think about what’s on that food tray). A couple power bars. (I go for the super-healthy kind).

I also bring a rosary along to keep me centered on takeoff and landing (as well as to beg God to spare my life just one more time). But anything that helps you meditate and breath calmer is good. Oh, and I know people who swear by Bach’s Rescue Remedy to help them relax. (I’m not going to bother mentioning small bottles of vodka or Xanax, which are must-have items for me; in all honesty, I often don’t take anything for shorter flights unless they’re particularly rough.)

Bring the right attitude with you.

Traveling for the holidays can be fun — but it can also be very stressful, especially if you’ve got kids in tow, flight delays, or challenging relationships to deal with once you’ve landed. It’s helpful to take a few minutes before you leave home and set your expectations. Decide how you want to approach the trip and prepare yourself in advance for possible frustrations so that you can handle them with greater ease and surrender.

And those are my quick tips for happier air travel this holiday season. What are yours? Got any must-have plane items or favorite travel wardrobe pieces to share?

Image seen on The Art of Manliness (but I thought that suitcase looked cool enough for a woman)

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